School board putting iPad project to test

The Hamilton Spectator - - LOCAL - RICHARD LEITNER

Hamil­ton’s pub­lic school board is backpedalling on a com­mit­ment to pro­vide iPads to ev­ery stu­dent in Grades 4 to 12 un­til it stud­ies their im­pact at the el­e­men­tary level.

Ed­u­ca­tion direc­tor Manny Figueiredo said staff still sup­port giv­ing iPads to all high school stu­dents but wants to first see if there’s ev­i­dence the com­puter tablets im­prove stu­dent achieve­ment in the lower grades.

The board has thus far pro­vided kits of six iPads to all class­rooms in Grades 4 to 6, other than at seven el­e­men­tary schools in the city’s core where all stu­dents in Grades 4 to 8 have re­ceived in­di­vid­ual de­vices as part of a five-year pi­lot project.

Figueiredo said the pi­lot, now in its third year, will help de­ter­mine the ben­e­fits of in­di­vid­ual iPads and when they should be in­tro­duced.

“We don’t have ev­i­dence right now,” Figueiredo told trustees at their pro­gram com­mit­tee meet­ing last week. “We do want to look at those pi­lot schools closely and de­ter­mine what is the en­try point.”

Known as Trans­form­ing Learn­ing Ev­ery­where, the iPad ini­tia­tive is head­ing into year four of a fiveyear roll­out, and will pro­vide in­di­vid­ual tablets to all Grade 10s and kits to all Grade 7 and Grade 8 class­rooms this fall.

All Grade 9s re­ceived in­di­vid­ual iPads last year, with Delta and Sir John A. Macdon­ald stu­dents also get­ting them in Grade 10.

As part of a pi­lot study, Nora Hen­der­son Sec­ondary School is al­ready pro­vid­ing iPads to all stu­dents in Grades 9 to 12, and Figueiredo said it’s clear they are meet­ing a goal of en­cour­ag­ing col­lab­o­ra­tive, in­quiry-based learn­ing there.

He said in­di­vid­ual iPads are es­sen­tial at high school to al­low stu­dents to ac­cess on­line learn­ing re­sources, but the ne­ces­sity is less clear at the el­e­men­tary level.

Brandy Doan, man­ager of the board’s re­search depart­ment, said to gauge the im­pact, a study will look at least 300 stu­dents in three groups and test a hy­poth­e­sis that the ini­tia­tive is im­prov­ing re­port card marks and learn­ing skills in a range of sub­jects.

Board chair Todd White said the study is “the re­spon­si­ble ap­proach,” even if it means po­ten­tially back­ing away from the com­mit­ment to pro­vide tablets to all stu­dents in Grades 4 to 8.

“There’s no doubt that elec­tronic medium is tak­ing off, so that’s the ben­e­fit, but the one piece that is the big­ger ques­tion mark is the aca­demic achieve­ment,” he said.

The $2.1-mil­lion ex­pen­di­ture on the 2017-18 roll­out still needs to be ap­proved in this year’s bud­get.

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